I have very little to say about the Conservative manifesto, because it has very little to say about the issues I am generally concerned with. The manifesto does say (on page 17) that the Conservatives want to reduce poverty, but not how. The misplaced emphasis on stopping fraud is hard to reconcile with the benefit system’s real failures. And somehow, carrying on with the roll-out of Universal Credit and extending the life of PIP assessments doesn’t quite seem to address the core problems with benefits, low income, destitution or debt.
That might, of course, raise the question of why I have not been more enthusiastic about the policies promoted by other parties. I’ve previously explained that I was looking for a different approach. Here, with apologies for repetition, is a list of some of the measures that I believe would have a beneficial effect.
- To make commitments to the principles of income security, meeting need and social justice.
- Reconsider what people need benefits for, providing services rather than cash where appropriate.
- Offer a wider range of benefits to improve the security of people’s income and to meet social objectives.
- Move away from means-testing, with greater reliance on contributory benefits and universal allowances.
- Rethink how things are done: aim to have benefits with simpler rules, fewer conditions, fewer personal adjustments and longer time scales.
- Secure benefits for disability to secure their financial status and their dignity.
- Protect the position of children in disrupted families by directing benefits to the child
- Improve provision for the oldest pensioners.
- Reform occupational pensions, to secure the future of pension entitlements and to ensure that pensions funds are invested in the British economy.
- Protect people better during the interruption of earnings caused by sickness and unemployment.
- Separate benefits and employability provision; they are doing different things.
- Provide more public sector jobs, to do the things that we want to have done.
And here is a rough indication of what the parties have promised on those issues. It’s rough, because it’s easy to miss things; the manifestos tend to pass over minor topics such as ‘poverty’ in a sentence or less, and costings documents are now routinely hidden somewhere else. If I’ve missed something important, please let me know. I’ll try to refine this table as the election campaign goes on.
|✖||Get people back to work||Financial security|
|Provide services, not cash, where appropriate||Free broadband, extend child care, free personal care, free primary school meals||✖||Free child care for 2-4s||Free child care, free personal care for older people|
|Wider range of benefits||✖||✖||✖||✖|
|Less means testing||✖||✖||✖||✓|
|Secure disability incomes||“The support they need”||✖||✖||✓|
|Benefits direct to children||School meals||✖||✖||✖|
|Reform occupational pensions||For miners and postal workers||✖||✖||✖|
|Separate benefits and employability||✖||✖||✓||✖|
|Create jobs||Infrastructure development||✖||Infrastructure development||Green jobs|